Cavalry FC, Calgary’s Canadian Premier League club, drew 0-0 with Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps in their third round Canadian Championship first-leg match at Spruce Meadows Wednesday.
The two clubs play the series’ second-leg in Vancouver July 24.
Here are four talking points from Cavalry FC’s draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps:
1. Cavalry FC’s job doable after not conceding at home
It may be a bit of stretch saying Cavalry FC has the advantage going into the second leg in Vancouver July 24. After all, Vancouver Whitecaps are the bigger team and should, on paper, still be the more likely to advance to the next round.
But due to the intricacies of a two-legged series, and specifically the away goals rule, the primary objective of many clubs is often to not concede a goal at home in knockout tournaments like the Canadian Championship. And Wheeldon Jr. and his staff will be rather chuffed to have kept a clean sheet against supposedly superior opposition.
“The tie is wide open,” said Wheeldon Jr. Wednesday. “That’s what we wanted, to make sure that when we went there, we could have a go.”
The Calgary club now knows it advances to the fourth round with a win or scored draw in the second leg.
Wheeldon Jr. admitted he’d have loved to have seen his club grab a goal at home. But he knows if his club scores a goal in Vancouver July 24 the Whitecaps will need to score twice. He’ll feel the job is doable.
“There’s no pressure on us,” said Wheeldon Jr. “We’re not expected to go through. With that, you can see the freedom the guys are playing with. It’s great to see.”
2. Cavalry FC fans bring the noise
Wednesday’s official attendance at Spruce Meadows’ ATCO Field was 5,129 – a season-high for Cavalry FC. And the support was tremendous.
Of course, the south end supporters section, including the Foot Soldiers Supporters Group, took on the initial responsibility of ramping up the atmosphere. But those in the 4,000-seat grandstand, and in the other areas of the stadium, should get much of the credit too – everyone came to be heard.
Cavalry FC’s matches are already different than anything else in Calgary pro-sports landscape – apologies to the Stampeders, Flames and Roughnecks. The atmosphere is concentrated, focused, intimate and organized. The grandstand’s roof amplifies the noise and directs it onto the field, while the south section is intimidatingly close to pitch.
And Cavalry FC’s players are absolutely loving it.
“It’s massive,” said Cavalry FC defender Mason Trafford of the support Wednesday. “You really felt it today, especially in those last 10 or 15 minutes.
“It just gives you such a lift and it’s such a point of pride for us as players to see how it’s grown in such a short period of time.”
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Yes, the game ended scoreless. But sometimes, despite the naysayers, a nil-nil can be enthralling, especially in a two-legged affair. Wednesday’s match was thrilling at times. And those in attendance Wednesday added to the occasion.
3. Cavalry FC players catch Whitecaps manager’s eye
Vancouver Whitecaps manager Marc Dos Santos admitted some Cavalry FC players had caught his eye Wednesday night when asked if he thought any of the host’s roster could make the move up to MLS.
“Of course. I don’t want to name names, because then it could screw up things,” said Dos Santos during the post-game press conference.
And while Dos Santos wouldn’t specifically identify the players who impressed him the most, there are some likely candidates.
Lethbridge-native Nico Pasquotti gave another trademarked ferocious performance down the right wing against the Whitecaps Wednesday. The winger has been one of the CPL’s breakout stars and many are beginning to recognize his talents.
Attacking midfielder Sergio Camargo, who spent time in the Toronto FC setup, is currently the top goal scorer (5) in the CPL and scouts and managers will be keeping an eye on him for the remainder of the season.
Goalkeeper, and former Vancouver Whitecaps prospect, Marco Carducci has kept the most clean sheets (5) in the CPL this season. Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has often touted his keeper as one of the best young talents in the country.
Nurturing and advancing Canadian talent is one of the mandates of the Canadian Premier League. And the more successful a CPL club is, the likelier it will see its players move on to higher levels. Ironically, Cavalry FC’s early success may make it difficult to hold onto all its best players for more than a season or two. But that’s football.
It’s easy to see the likes of Pasquotti, Camargo and Carducci eventually getting opportunities elsewhere soon. And Vancouver’s MLS club seems as likely a next step as any.
Up next for Cavalry FC?
Cavalry FC change gears this weekend and travel to Halifax to play HFX Wanderers in the Canadian Premier League Saturday. This will be Cavalry FC’s second match in the fall season, after winning the spring season.
It will be interesting to see how Wheeldon Jr. and his squad continue to navigate the murky waters of a fall session that doesn’t hold much in the way of tangible targets, as the club has already qualified for the Canadian Premier League championship at the end of October.